Summary: The man by the pool was trapped by hopelessness until he turned in the direction of true hope.
Questions and their answers can tell you a lot about a person. In fact one of the keys to being successful in life is to learn to ask the right questions. What we see in this passage is someone who was so far down, so removed from any real hope that he probably didn’t even really know what He wanted. So Jesus uses a question to see what it is that the man really wants.
The passage in John takes place in Jerusalem in the second year of Jesus ministry. The location of this story was by the sheep gat to the temple where sacrificial sheep were washed before being admitted. This year we’ve talked a lot about sheep and we know that when they first come out of the field that they are not the cleanest of animals. Sheep were also required for sacrifice in the temple and everything in the temple needed to be ceremonially clean, so what they’ve found as they excavate ancient Jerusalem is that there was a gate that the priests and who ever else would bring the sheep through into the temple and right outside that gate that had a pool. This pool was used to wash the sheep so that they were clean enough to be brought into the temple.
The sheep may have been clean but the water wouldn’t have been, everything that was washed off would be in the water and would settle into the sides and bottom of that pool. Verse 2 tells us that the pool was surrounded by five colonnades. These colonnades gave the illusion of protection from the elements. They would have blocked some of the wind during the cold months of winter and so protection from the rain. They would have provided some shade during the heat of the summer months. It would have appeared to have been a good place to seek shelter for those who gathered underneath them. But as anyone who has had to sit outside on a July day in Phoenix can tell you it’s just an illusion, the shade may be cooler but it’s still hot. As anyone can tell you on a windy rainy day, sometimes the wind makes it rain sideways and there is no protection from the rain. But on most days, the columns would help so on most days they gave the appearance, the illusion of being able to help.
This pool over the years became surrounded by handicapped people from all around because there was a legend about it but even the legend was an illusion because everything about this place was an illusion. Listen to how the passage reads in the New King James. Verses 3-4, “In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” This verse doesn’t appear in the NIV, ESV or NET Bible because it’s not in the earliest and best sources, someone added this verse later.
So what happened here? Here’s a quick lesson in apologetics. See some people would look at the verse and say it is a problem. That we Christians can’t even get our Bible right so how can we trust it. Well let’s look at this really quickly. John probably didn’t include this passage about the angel because that was the local legend that an angel would appear and stir the water so someone could be healed. John the evangelist wouldn’t write a false legend in his gospel but it appears that in some of the later manuscripts someone added it, probably to make it more readable.